Warren looks to move past ancestry controversy with 2020 announcement

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDNC punts on measure to reduce role of corporate PAC money Bill Maher to Dems: ‘Let’s not eat our own’ in 2020 Newsom endorses Kamala Harris for president MORE (D-Mass.) is looking to get out from under her past claims of Native American ancestry as she prepares to officially kick off her bid for the White House.

With a formal campaign announcement expected on Saturday, the nascent presidential candidate is facing a test of her ability to weather a controversy that she had hoped to put to rest months ago.

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Several Democrats said that Warren has so far navigated the controversy well. But the question remains whether the issue will linger deeper into the 2020 Democratic nominating contest and sow doubts among the party’s primary voters.

“If it dominates what people think about her, that’s a problem,” said Scott Ferson, a Boston-based Democratic strategist. “The question is going to be, does this define her as a candidate for president?”

Warren is set to travel to seven states in the coming days, including New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada, where Democrats will cast some of the first votes of the 2020 primary.

Several Democrats said that Warren still has time to move beyond the controversy surrounding her past assertions of Native American ancestry and her decision last year to release the results of a DNA test in an attempt to prove her claims.

“Elizabeth Warren is early in her race,” said Trav Robertson, the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. “If she sticks her head down and focuses and pivots, I think she’ll have just as good an opportunity as anyone else.”

In New Hampshire, where Warren will attend an organizing event Saturday afternoon, one Democratic operative brushed off the notion that Warren’s claims of Native American ancestry had dealt a serious blow to her reputation among primary voters in the state.

“I don’t really think people up here care about that,” the operative said. “No one has mentioned it to me at all.”

But others remain unsatisfied with Warren’s handling of the ancestry controversy. David Cornsilk, a genealogist and member of the Cherokee Nation, said that Warren has yet to issue a “proper apology” for her past claims.

“With a proper apology I think Warren could be a viable candidate,” Cornsilk wrote in a Facebook post. “Until and unless that happens, NO.”

The Massachusetts Democrat faced scrutiny last year after she released the results of a DNA test showing that she had a distant Native American ancestor, a move intended to rebut President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE, who frequently derided Warren for her past ancestry claims.

The issue bubbled up once again this week after The Washington Post published Warren’s 1986 registration card for the State Bar of Texas on which she identified her ethnicity as “American Indian,” prompting a new round of apologies from the senator.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Warren said that she had grown up believing her family’s claims of Cherokee ancestry and that those claims became part of her identity.

“This is our family’s story, and it’s all consistent from that point in time. But as I said, it’s important to note I’m not a tribal citizen and I should have been more mindful of the distinction,” Warren said, although she suggested that there may be other documents on which she identified herself as Native American.

Warren’s latest apology came days after she privately apologized to Bill John Baker, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, for releasing the DNA test results. A spokesperson for the Cherokee Nation did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

The controversy surrounding Warren’s past ancestry claims has emboldened her Republican critics, some of whom have suggested that she purposefully misrepresented her ethnicity to further her career.

review last year by The Boston Globe of documents pertaining to Warren’s legal career showed that ethnicity was not taken into account as she landed jobs at several universities, including the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University.

After The Washington Post published the copy of Warren’s 1986 registration card this week, Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, wrote to the State Bar of Texas asking that the Massachusetts senator be disciplined for “misrepresenting” her ethnicity.

Ferson, the Democratic strategist, said that Warren, like any other presidential candidate, was being made to examine for her past life “through a different lens.”

“It’s frankly a good thing,” he said.

But he added that her political fortunes will hinge, at least in part, on whether more information on her past claims of Native American ancestry comes to light.

“I think seeing this in her handwriting on her application has raised questions again,” Ferson said. “And the question is, is that it, or are there other documents out there?”